My memory verse for this week:
"Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it and whoever loses their life for me will find it." Matthew 16:24-25
NTC Day 10
Matthew 19-20 and Acts 28
Both the Matthew and Acts readings today encourage the reader to believe that God is a generous God who wants to include everyone in his kingdom.
Matthew 19:13-15 is the familiar passage about letting the little children come. Jesus welcomed the children and said that the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. This story is repeated in Mark 10:13. Jesus is trying to get the point across that eternal life in heaven is a gift from God and we should be like children receiving a gift with open hearts. We cannot EARN that gift, but should understand that the gifts of heaven are freely given by God.
In Matthew 20, God's generous nature is highlighted again. Jesus tells the story of the landowner who hires men to work in his vineyard. Some work all day, and some, he hires late in the day. But he pays all the men the same wage, no matter how long they had worked. Jesus tells us we shouldn't be upset or envious of these "latecomers," as their reward illustrates the generous nature of God.
In Acts 28, Paul is in Rome and is explaining his beliefs to the Jewish leaders of this region. People had come from miles around to hear Paul speak. He tells them about how Moses and the Old Testament prophets foretold the coming of Jesus. He convinced some, but others would not believe. All listened to him, until he spoke of how the Gospel is meant for Gentiles and others as well as for the Jews. This upset the Jews, for they felt THEY were God's chosen people.
Today's chapters spoke of other things, such as Jesus' teachings about divorce, and giving up everything to follow him and how hard that is for some. And the first part of Acts explains how Paul and the others with him faired after the shipwreck...they were well taken care of, and even though he was still a prisoner, Paul had much freedom.
But the most important part for me today was to understand that salvation and eternal life through Jesus is a gift, open to ALL who believe. There is so secret club, you can't earn your way in...yes, Jesus says we are to follow the commands, but follow them as an expression of faith. Our faith in Jesus as the giver of Grace from God is what causes God give us his gift of salvation!
For all those who think that you have to act certain ways and do certain things to get into heaven, today's passages use Jesus and Paul as the vehicles to prove them wrong. Living as Jesus wants us to live takes training and time. If you confess your belief in Christ, and believe that he died to save you, then you are on your way. But it is journey, an active journey and every one you meet might be on a different part of that journey. That is why Jesus talks so much about loving and forgiving others. It IS a radical love that we are to show to everyone around us, a love that encourages and doesn't judge.
I much rather work on my own training, reading God's word, minding my own tongue, loving and encouraging others than I would to tear others down and make them feel they are not worthy of God's grace because of the way they are acting. Let's be good examples instead and show how God's gospel is meant for everyone and not just the "super saints!"